From the Worldwide Faith News archives

[ENS] Zimbabwean Muslim group backtracks on Christian curriculum

From "Mika Larson" <>
Date Mon, 25 Aug 2003 17:28:57 -0400



Zimbabwean Muslim group backtracks on Christian curriculum demands 

Ecumenical News International 

[ENS] Harare, 18 August (ENI)--A Muslim group that gave Zimbabwe's
government 60 days to revise the teaching of Christianity in public
schools or face legal action, has backed off on its demand, saying it
did not consult the Islamic community before issuing the ultimatum. 

The Islamic Convent of the Strict Observance's (ICSO) ultimatum had also
triggered an angry response from Christians. They decried as
"unreasonable" demands set out in a petition by the Muslim group urging
the government to ban the teaching of Christian subjects in public
schools and the recitation of the Lord's Prayer at school functions. 

"I suggest they relocate to countries where they might feel more at ease
rather than trying to impose their wishes on others," charged one
critic, John Emmanuel of Harare, in a letter to the independent Daily
News following the publication of a story on the group's petition. 

"I would urge the authorities to reject this unreasonable and offensive
request and to deem it just that," said Emmanuel whose views were
reflected in other letters. "I wonder how for example, Muslims in
Pakistan would react to a demand by Christians that Islamic prayers be

Thompson Tsodzo of the ISCO had two weeks earlier, in a letter to the
education ministry's permanent secretary, contended that Zimbabwe's
school curriculum contravened the country's constitution that provides
for the protection of freedom of conscience. 

The group, made up of parents of Muslim children attending school in
Harare, gave the government 60 days to rectify the "anomaly" and
failure, and had said it would lodge a constitutional appeal in the
country's Supreme Court. 

Sources close to the Muslim group said its members were forced to
withdraw their children from Muslim private schools and enrol them in
government-run schools because of recent fee increases at the private
schools, during a time of extreme economic hardship in Zimbabwe. 

"Although non-Christian pupils are generally exempt from Christian
instruction, the fact of the matter is that their consciences are
pricked because they are confined to libraries or studies during the
times Christian instruction is given," read part of the group's letter. 

Education Minister Aeneas Chigwedere rejected the demand made in the 1
August letter. He said in a newspaper interview: "We accept the
existence of the minority and their rights and we are not against their
religion. But it will be foolhardy for them to expect us to transform a
whole school curriculum," to cater for one or two Muslim pupils. 

Chigwedere added, "If Muslims feel that a school is not catering for
their interests, they are at liberty to establish their schools which we
will register." 

Zimbabwe is a predominantly a Christian country. Many people also
practise traditional beliefs as well as Christianity. Three years ago,
the Evangelical Fellowship of Zimbabwe unsuccessfully petitioned a
government-appointed constitutional commission to declare Zimbabwe a
Christian nation. [482 words] 

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